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CAK tops in state


CHATTANOOGA — Overcoming near heartbreak in the Class A/AA girls soccer state semifinals to whip an unbeaten opponent, the Christian Academy of Knoxville Lady Warriors made it look easy in the state title game against a once-beaten foe.

Blowing a late lead in “a really physical game” against Notre Dame before winning 3-2 in overtime, CAK was quite decisive in a 3-0 victory against University School of Jackson Saturday, Nov. 4, that gave the school its first-ever girls state soccer championship.

The Lady Warriors also ended its season unbeaten at 22-0-2.

Senior Laura Novikoff, an All-state forward and University of Kentucky commitment who led CAK with 47 goals this season, said her team went from being eliminated in district play last fall to state champs a year later.

“We just had a bunch of girls who were willing to put the work in and sacrifice to get this far,” she said. “Last year we had a good group of girls but we just never had that chemistry. This year we’re just a lot more of a unit. Our coach [Nathan Pifer] makes us work hard and we’re willing to do it.”

Novikoff scored four of her team’s 14 goals during the three state tourney games at Girls Preparatory School, including the last one versus USJ (23-2-1).

Freshman standout forward Brittany Hoffman led the way by scoring five in three games, including the first two against USJ. Her goal from about 20 yards out put CAK up 1-0 with 20:28 left in the first half.

“Laura said she couldn’t wait ’till Brittany got in high school,” Pifer said. “Each game, Brittany just got stronger and stronger. She got to feed off of Laura’s success, and learn from Laura.”

Hoffman was second on the team in goals with 28.

As a team, “It’s been a lot of fun coaching ’em, they stay focused, they encourage each other,” Pifer said. “Some of ’em don’t get to play and they still encourage each other. You can’t get better than that.”

On a well-placed cross pass from the right corner from freshman Mary Thompson, Hoffman’s punched in the second goal in front of the net with 36:29 left in the second half.

Novikoff scored from 15-yards out on a breakaway with 26:07 to play. CAK ended with a 19-4 edge in shots-on-goal.

“I think the team bonded as well as we have, ever,” said senior goalkeeper Megan Daniel, who had a clutch save early in the match when it was scoreless. “The team was just so close. We never slammed each other, we were always uplifting and encouraging.”

Interjecting her religious faith, senior Emily Miller said the team “worked hard all season. We’ve not gone very far in the last couple of years, but this season we had a lot of talent and we just able to pull it through. … Our team just fit together and we all worked hard together and for each other and gave it all to God for his glory. The only way we got here is through Him.”

Senior midfielder/defender Brielle Hoffman was also thankful. “It’s amazing, this is my first year playing and I can never thank God enough for how much he’s blessed us this season,” Brielle Hoffman said. “It’s been a fun opportunity to play with these amazing girls and getting this new coach, he’s been amazing. It’s just been an awesome opportunity to play this year.”

Senior forward Rachael Denton said, “We’ve come a long way since I was a freshman. I can’t think of a better way to end my senior season.”

CAK 3 NOTRE DAME 2

Brittany Hoffman broke the tie it OT with a goal three minutes into the second 10-minute non-sudden death extra period. Notre Dame had tied the game on a goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Julie Thompson gave CAK a 1-0 lead early, then Novikoff put the Lady Warriors up 2-1 with a goal early in the second half. Brittany Hoffman had one assist.

“We’re definitely not used to that, we’ve only had a couple of close games all season,” Daniel said. “The day after the game we were all sore, we could barely move.”

Pifer agreed. “We were beat to a pulp, there are bruises up and down these girls,” the coach said. “I was more worried we wouldn’t be able to perform the way we can [in the state title game].”

Notre Dame (18-1-4) led in shots-on-goal 21-15.

CAK 8 JACKSON CHRISTIAN 0

With a 30-1 edge in shots on goal, CAK ruled as Novikoff and Brittany Hoffman each scored two goals. Ruthie Edmonds, Miller, Becky Ross and Elizabeth Bevard also tallied. Assists came from Julie Thompson, Brittany Hoffman, Mary Thompson and Miller.

 

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